My buck’s party was awesome. . . . Did I say awesome? I meant tragic. Well, it was both. It was the standard fare: a night-out in Surfers Paradise, lots of skolling and shots and cheering; no strippers, as I really couldn’t see the point of having a beautiful, naked woman gyrating in front of me when the lady I was marrying in forty-eight-hours was infinitely more beautiful than any stripper, clothed or not. And when she gyrated. . . . So the lot of us went out and did the buck’s thing. The guys who were already married disappeared early on, summoned back to headquarters by their feminine overlords. The guys with girls lasted a while longer, though my stripper-avoidance was lost on them, and they ended up at one-or-two joints before slinking home with guilty consciences. By 3am it was just me and the single-blokes; my best mate Josh and a couple of others. A bad scene: soon-to-be-married guy left with a bunch of guys who could barely comprehend the idea of marriage, let alone support it, but there was no way in hell I’d let them drag me to a strip club. They found another way of punishing me for doing the ultimate ho’s before bro’s thing, in the clandestine form of just another couple of pints of the black-ale, in an Irish pub overlooking an equally black Pacific Ocean. I came-to as the first rays of light penetrated the clouds hanging on the horizon, and the last-laughs of my drunken compadres disappeared into the dawn. I distinctly heard Josh yell, ‘Now you’re really tied down, Jimmy!’ to the backdrop of more laughter as I blinked, shook my head and realised my arms were restricted. They’d been taped behind me, around a light-pole on the esplanade. I tried to yell out something like, ‘Come back ya bastards!’ but all that came-out was something more like, ‘Hmmmmph, mmmmph, HMMMMMPPPHHHH!’ because my mouth’d also been taped. I gave up struggling pretty quickly, and just stared out-to-sea thinking that marriage couldn’t possibly be any worse than this. The beauty of the sun’s dawn-reveal was actually quite reassuring, like I was entering a new, drunk-on-love chapter of my life, after the old, standard, drunk-on-booze one. A council clean-up guy was sweeping in front of me. It was quite hilarious: he took one look at me and continued sweeping while chuckling to himself. I guess I’m not his job, I thought, but at least I’m making it more interesting. He looked north for a moment, hesitated as if something had captivated his attention, turned around abruptly and started sweeping back south. I glanced north. Oh, I thought. Now my attention was captivated. It was Lisa, my fiancée. She strode toward me in the half-light of the morn’ with not a look of anger on her face, but amusement, which wasn’t surprising. She heroically checked her amusement from breaking into open laughter as she approached. Amazing, I thought, because I’d just realised I was completely naked, ‘cept for the duct-tape of course. She kept striding closer to me and I felt more uncomfortable around her than I’d ever been in our two-years together. She stopped directly in front of me, looked me up and down, and smirked as if to a private joke. My eyes pleaded with her for help. ‘Let me help you,’ she said, and proceeded to rip the tape from my face and plant the most passionate kiss I’d ever experienced on my sore lips. It was indeed a kiss for sore lips. She separated herself from me, resealed the tape, and took a step back. ‘See you at the altar, Jim,’ she laughed, finally losing her incredible self-control. She continued laughing while sauntering north and after disappearing ‘round a corner. ‘I love that woman’, I thought, relaxing in my bonds.
‘Jim.’ I groaned upon hearing my own name. ‘Jim.’ Where was it coming from? ‘Jim, can you hear me?’ It was a man’s voice. ‘Jim, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand.’ I realised there was a hand under my left-hand. I squeezed. ‘Good, good: you’ll be ok.’
‘Dad?’ I ventured. Silence, but there he was, my late-father; this must’ve been Heaven. We were standing on an eternal glass floor, facing each other, my father holding my hand and smiling serenely at me. Wasn’t I on the side of a road, dying? I couldn’t remember. Then mum appeared, behind dad, walking up beside him, transparent at first, becoming solid by the time she sidled up to my father, then stopped, reached out and held my other hand. ‘Mum?’ She didn’t answer, just offered a relaxed smile. What was mum doing here? She was still alive . . . wasn’t she? She was back in Brisbane, running the restaurant, not going a day without standing for five minutes in front of the photo of dad, herself, me and my brother Pete. Pete, there he was, on the other side of dad, not smiling serenely, but laughing like he did that time I came back from a third-date without so much as a kiss to show for it. Then my grandparents—still living also—appeared behind me, holding a shoulder each. Then my half-brother and sister, nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles, aunts, running out of room to hold me and just standing there smiling, laughing, or scowling, depending on the nature of their relationship with me. Suddenly the glass was flooded with people as far as the eye could see, family or not, some I’d not seen in years and may not have particularly wished to; some I’d missed every day. Everyone in front of me abruptly turned around. I looked behind and noticed everyone there was looking past me. Josh alone was looking me, soberly, in the eyes. He nodded over my shoulder. I turned. The crowd had parted, leaving an endless path before me. Someone was walking down the path towards me, someone female, someone . . . Lisa.